Robert William Service
Beneath the trees I lounged at ease
And watched them speed the pace;
They swerved and swung, they clutched and clung,
They leapt in roaring chase;
The crowd was thrilled, a chap was killed:
It was a splendid race.
Two men, they say, went West that day,
But I knew only one;
Geranium-red his blood was spread
And blazoned in the sun;
A lighting crash . . . Lo! in a flash
His racing days were done.
I did not see - such sights to me
Appallingly are grim;
But for a girl of sunny curl
I would not mention him,
That English lad with grin so glad,
And racing togs so trim.
His motor bike was painted like
A postal box of ed.
'Twas gay to view . . . "We bought it new,"
A voice beside me said.
"Our little bit we blew on it
The day that we were wed.
"We took a chance: through sunny France
We flashed with flaunting power.
With happy smiles a hundred miles
Or more we made an hour.
Like flame we hurled into a world
A-foam with fruit and flower.
"Our means were small; we risked them all
This famous race to win,
So we can take a shop and make
Our bread - one must begin.
We're not afraid; Jack has his trade:
He's bright as brassy pin.
"Hark! Here they come; uphill they hum;
My lad has second place;
They swing, they roar, they pass once more,
Now Jack sprints up the pace.
They're whizzing past . . . At last, at last
He leads - he'll win the race.
Another round . . . They leap, they bound,
But - where O where is he?"
And then the girl with sunny curl
Turned chalk-faced unto me,
Within her eyes a wild surmise
It was not good to see.
They say like thunder-bold he crashed
Into a wall of stone;
To bloody muck his face was mashed,
He died without a moan;
In borrowed black the girl went back
To London Town alone.
Beneath the trees I longed at ease
And saw them pep the pace;
They swerved and swung, they clutched and clung
And roaring was the chase:
Two men, they say, were croaked that day -
It was a glorious race.
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